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The Green Mile
I often tell people when evaluating a film one ought to try to review it in terms of its time. But, in the case of The Green Mile , it’s helpful to be able to view this film with the benefit of hindsight.
Rarely has a film been the object of such changing perceptions as The Green Mile. A decade after the film’s release, it’s one of the most loved films of the 1990s, and at the time of this writing is ranked in the Internet Movie Database’s top 20 fantasy films of all time, beating out such notables as The Wizard of Oz , Toy Story and King Kong. But it wasn’t always so for The Green Mile. At the time of its release it got mixed reviews by critics – according to Rotten Tomatoes dot com, only about 70% of the top critics gave it a good review.
To understand why this is, we have to transport ourselves back to the 90s. The last film to make it to the big screen by both the writer, Stephen King, and the director, Frank Darabont, was a film called The Shawshank Redemption, widely considered to be one of the greatest cinematic achievements in history (just as a point of reference, the Internet Movie Database lists Shawshank as #1 on the list of 250 top movies of all time). Whether or not you agree with that, just understand that Shawshank connected with audiences and critics both in a very powerful way.
In addition, The Green Mile was also set during the first half of the 20 Century, and also in a prison – comparisons to Shawshank were inevitable, and given King’s hiatus (imposed by a horrible accident), and the fact that The Green Mile was Darabont’s follow up to Shawhank (his directing debut) anticipation was at an all time high.
In fact, The Shawshank Redemption cast such a long shadow over The Green Mile, that it’s nearly impossible to find any Green Mile review from the time that does not mention that film.
When compared to such a monumental achievement, is it any wonder that The Green Mile was found lacking?
But, take Shawshank out of the equation, and suddenly the picture becomes very, very different. Judged on it’s own merits, The Green Mile is an outstanding motion picture.
I’m not going to waste time summarizing the plot, or praising the acting, I’m just going to say that everything about this film is well done, and even though it’s 188 minutes long, it’s worth every minute. And just like the previous dramas, Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption it ends with one of those brilliant Stephen King lines that both summarizes the journey and hammers home the theme brilliantly.